Category Archives: Jewish faith

Loving-kindness / Chesed

It is written: A day should not pass without acts of loving-kindness, either with one’s body, money, or soul.

-Rabbi Yeshayahu Segal Horowitz, Sh’nei Luchot Ha’Brit

Jewish tradition recognizes acts of loving kindness as the highest level of soul traits. According to Jewish thought, true loving-kindness, or chesed in Hebrew, must have completely selfless motives. If our goal is to be a kind, loving community where children, friends, parents, and teachers all treat each other with kindness, what does that look like to us and to our children? Mussar teachings express that in order for our actions to qualify as chesed, we need to go out of our way to help those in need; we must be sensitive to others’ feelings and we need to demonstrate with our actions that we care.

ID-10012149Children are instinctively considerate and kind. “The desire to help is innate,” says David Schonfeld, MD, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “At first, children like to help others because it helps them get what they want. Next, they do so because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others, and it becomes intrinsically rewarding to do nice things for people in their lives.”

Since the experts tell us that children naturally want to help others, what do we as parents need to do to insure that this inclination will grow, rather than be extinguished? Modeling acts of kindness for our children provides our greatest opportunity to reach this goal. It is important for children to understand that they can demonstrate small acts of kindness every day and these small acts have tremendous power. Bring more kindness into your family by modeling it for your children. If you operate a loving and kind household, children learn to be loving and kind, not only in their homes, but in their communities as well.

Read and reread books encouraging kindness to your children. Some suggestions are: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning. When children demonstrate loving-kindness we need to express our pride, so they learn that we value these actions.

“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.”

-Emma Goldman

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values program geared specifically for young children.

Click here to purchase
Jewish values for children

 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

Photo by graur razvan ionut.


door“We stand before a doorway behind which we will not find belief, definition, idea, logical proof, or concept, but directly perceived experience.”

–Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness

Faith, or Emuna in Hebrew, most directly translates to faith in God. Our children often ask us about God. They may ask during difficult times, after a death or tragedy, or even during quiet times together. Many parents find it difficult to talk to their children about God and to answer their questions about God. Adults should be willing to acknowledge that they don’t always know the answers to these questions. If you struggle with their questions, try to understand your own feelings and thoughts about God before responding to theirs. You will then be better able to help your children to understand this difficult concept. Ask yourself, “What do I believe about God?” “What do I wonder about God?” Parents may choose not to share their personal beliefs; instead they might say, “Some people believe…” or “Jewish people have been asking these questions for years and years,” or “What do you think?”

To help children understand the concept of faith, you may want to explain to them that faith is to believe in something, even though we cannot see it. We believe in many things that we cannot see. We know that air exists because we can feel it in our lungs when we take a breath. We see our hair move in the wind and leaves blowing in the trees even though we can’t actually see the air that moves them. We cannot see love, but we feel it and believe in it. Some people believe what they are taught. Others want proof, so it is more difficult for them to have faith.
Ask your children what wonderful things they see and feel that may be
proof that God exists, even though we can’t see God. Do we find it in the
awesome beauty of nature, the delicate perfection of a newborn baby, or
in the profound power of love? We encounter God’s presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of good and evil, in love, and in everyday experiences.

Cultivate the practice of expressing gratitude, possibly by saying b’rachot (blessings), a simple act of daily acknowledgement of gratitude for the gifts you enjoy. Practice gratitude by saying:
●  Blessings before enjoying a meal, snack, or drink

●  Blessings for life’s moments ­ joyful or sad

●  Blessings for wonders of nature

●  Blessings before a journey

●  Blessings for learning

Parents can guide children in the practice of prayer and create an atmosphere in which children feel comfortable questioning and wondering about God, faith, life, and death.

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values for children program of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

To purchase click here

 ©2015 The Mussar Institute 

Photo by basketman